Locanda Le Grazie

Instagram highlights of northern Italian treasures

“Open my heart and you will see

Graved inside of it, ‘Italy’ .” — Robert Browning

It shouldn’t be surprising that art, literature, and music are essential aspects of northern Italy. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, dramatic history, and deep cultural traditions, it’s easy to understand why writers (such as Browning), artists, and musicians have been enamored of and inspired by various locations in the four regions of Italy we visited on our latest trip — Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. We were captivated each day by the lakes, gardens, cities, countryside, and historic sites. Of course, this is Italy, so culinary delights are also an important part of any visit and we savored a delicious diversity of regional food and wine. In particular, Mr. TWS seemed to be tasting heaven in every bite.

We covered a lot of territory traveling by car from Lake Maggiore (Piedmont) to Mantua (Lombardy) to Asolo (Veneto) and finally to Tredozio (my third visit to Emilia-Romagna and second to Tredozio) with interesting side trips each day and varied accommodations — lakeside cottage, 12th-century palace, romantic apartment, and countryside villa. (We also spent a few days in Venice, but that’s for another story.) So there will be much to show and tell beyond this preview, and we will in future posts. These photos from our Instagram gallery are an introduction to our trip to whet your appetite.

Casa del Lago in Lesa (Lake Maggiore) — our base in Piedmont

Pictured below was the gorgeous, peaceful sunrise that we captured from the waterfront at Casa del Lago, the lovely villa we called home for four nights on Lake Maggiore. What a beautiful place on earth! We could have happily spent the entire four days here, but it was ideally located providing easy access to many sights and activities we experienced

View from Casa Del Lago Lake Maggiore

View from Casa Del Lago Lake Maggiore

 

What a glorious first day we had on Lake Maggiore as we traveled by boat from the town of Stresa to the Borromeo Islands of the lake. The view below was from the palace and gardens on Isola Bella (meaning beautiful island — and indeed, it is). There was still a bit of snow showing on the Alpine peaks in the distance.

Isola-Bella-palace

Tulips of all colors and types were on display in the expansive and gorgeous botanical gardens of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, a must-see when visiting Lake Maggiore. I loved this combination of purple and orange/pink tulips.

Villa Taranto Gardens Pallanza Lake Maggiore

Villa Taranto Gardens Pallanza Lake Maggiore

Don’t tell anyone! Let’s keep this old village in the Piedmont region a secret. Well, it’s probably too late for that, but Orta San Giulio is a quiet and romantic treasure in the Italian lakes area. The town is situated on a hillside on the shores of Lake Orta, lesser-known than other lakes of northern Italy. Pictured below are colorful buildings with shops and restaurants on Piazza Motta.

Lake Orta Piemonte

Lake Orta Piemonte

 

Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua — our base in Lombardy

 

Mr. TWS and I have fond memories of the view pictured below from our private Tower Suite rooftop at the grand Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2016 Italian Capital of Culture, Mantua is well-known for its annual literary festival and is rich in history, the arts, and culture

 

 

Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua — our base in Lombardy

Mantova, Lombardy, view from Palazzo Castiglioni

Mantova, Lombardy, view from Palazzo Castiglioni

Mr. TWS and I have fond memories of the view pictured below from our private Tower Suite rooftop at the grand Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2016 Italian Capital of Culture, Mantua is well-known for its annual literary festival and is rich in history, the arts, and culture

Palazzo Castiglioni Mantova, the frescoed wall in the tower

Palazzo Castiglioni Mantova, the frescoed wall in the tower

We were fortunate to catch a rehearsal of a fantastic chorale group during a tour of beautiful Teatro Bibiena. The theater is one of the main venues of the Mantova Chamber Music Festival organized by the Mantua Chamber Orchestra. Of great historical note, Mozart performed his first solo concert on stage here at age 13. About the theater, his father wrote that he had never seen anything more beautiful of its kind

Bibiena-Theater Mantova Chamber Orchestra

 

Go ahead … have a taste. These were a few of the totally delicious specialties of Mantua that we had for lunch at Locanda delle Grazie in Curtatone — fruit (apples and pears) mustards, pumpkin ravioli, and Sbrisolona (a crunchy almond dessert). Lambrusco Mantovano, a local Lombardy DOC, paired perfectly

Locanda Delle Grazie Curtatone Mantova

Locanda Delle Grazie Curtatone Mantova

Elena 3 in Asolo — our base in Veneto

Beautiful Asolo! Pictured below is the panoramic vista of residential buildings against the backdrop of the Alpine foothills seen from Queen Cornaro’s Castle.

Asolo, Veneto

Asolo, Veneto

Having cappuccino and pastries at historic Caffè Centrale (pictured below) was a delightful ritual while in Asolo. Literary greats (and other notables) like Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, and Robert Browning hung out in this very place in times past. Our lovely in-town apartment was on the 2nd floor (3rd in U.S. terms) above Caffè Centrale which faces the quaint Piazza Garibaldi with a lovely fountain, the cathedral, and a few small shops and restaurants

Asolo Caffè Centrale

Asolo Caffè Centrale

A beautiful side trip from Asolo took us to Prosecco wine country and a drive along the Prosecco Road. Inside the extensive underground tunnels beneath the Villa Sandi wine estate are a million bottles of aging wine (pictured below). There’s also interesting history here — the tunnels were used by the Italian military during World War I to get troops to and from the front line. Villa Sandi offers a great tour through the tunnels as well as the villa with a taste of their Prosecco Superiore

Villa Sardi winery

Villa Sandi winery

When visiting the lively town of Treviso, always be on the lookout for beautiful frescoes on the facades of buildings in the historic center. How beautiful is this? The historic city has many similarities to nearby (and much more famous Venice), which had considerable influence on Treviso style and architecture. It is very accessible as a day trip from nearby Asolo.

Treviso Veneto

Treviso Veneto

Torre Fantini in Tredozio — our base in Emilia-Romagna

Irises were in bloom at Torre Fantini, once a lookout tower, now a beautifully-restored cozy hillside villa, where we stayed in Tredozio. It’s a gorgeous setting with a spectacular view (one of our favorites anywhere) of hills covered with vineyards, fields, and woods. It is a very peaceful place for a relaxing stay. This was our second stay at Torre Fantini and we’d would love to return.

Tredozio Torre Fantini Garden

Tredozio Torre Fantini Garden

One of the many convenient and scenic side trips from Tredozio is the medieval town of Brisighella. In the photo below, the clock tower is seen from La Rocca. the ancient fortress on a nearby hilltop. I love the patches of clouds in the blue sky of this spring day, which enhanced the spectacular views in many directions from many observation points.

Brisighella

The bright sunshine highlights the pretty buildings of the historic center of Brisighella where the colorful facades follow the curvature of the ancient city walls.

Brisighella

Brisighella

I’ll close this series of photos with a little romance. I really like this photo of Mr. TWS (his first appearance on Instagram) and me (2nd time) in the ballroom of Villa La Collina, an elegant luxury holiday rental on a hilltop high above Tredozio. It was a memorable experience visiting the villa and meeting its lovely owner Contessa Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli (who is also seen in the photo). The contessa graciously provided a tour of the villa and gardens, and also a delicious lunch of local dishes

Tredozio Villa La Collina

Tredozio Villa La Collina

Disclosure: During our trip, our accommodations and activities were sponsored by EsteVillas and local hosts

Posted on May 6th 2016

Written by Catherine Sweeney  Travelling with Sweeney

Casa del Lago Lake Maggiore , Isola Bella , Locanda Le Grazie  Via S. Pio X, 2, Grazie MN, Italy tel +39 0376 348038

Palazzo Castiglioni Mantova , Mantova Chamber Orchestra,

Elena 3 Asolo, Caffè Centrale , Villa Sandi ,

Torre Fantini Tredozio , Villa La Collina Tredozio

Manota Palazzo Te : Room of the Giants

Manota Palazzo Te : Room of the Giants

By  Eileen Ogintz

  • Published January 09, 2015· FoxNews.com

 

After all, I’m staying in a palace — the Palazzo Castiglioni, which dates back to the Renaissance, located right across the piazza from the 500-room Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, Italy.

Where? That was my reaction when Kit Burns, whose company Doorways specializes in booking villa vacations to Italy, suggested we spend a few days in the palazzo that has been owned by the same family since the Renaissance, in a city just 40 minutes from Verona. (If you know your Shakespeare, you’ll know this is where Romeo came to buy the poison.)

Today you won’t find that many tourists here, but you will find the quintessential Italian experience — restaurants spilling out onto cobblestoned piazzas, locals starting their morning with a cafe, the weekly market that takes over the entire Piazza Sordello (we see it from our window) selling everything from socks to cheese and sausage. During the Renaissance, we learn, Mantua was famous for its music, art and the powerful Gonzaga family. I’m so glad we’re here but we nearly missed the opportunity. Burns acknowledges that suggesting visitors stop here can be a hard sell when there are so many more famous sites to see in Italy, but that makes Mantua (Mantova in Italian) all the more special. “It’s hard to find a place that’s off the beaten track in Italy,” Burns said. “Here you can immerse yourself in what was and what is.” Without tripping over other tourists, she adds.

skyline 2

At one time, Mantua rivaled Florence for its art. But sadly, the Austrians and then Napoleon stole much of it. There’s still amazing architecture and frescoes like the Camera Picta painted room in the Ducal Palace with huge wall paintings by Andrea Mantegna. There’s the amazing Biblena Theater where Mozart played as a young teen; In June, there is a music festival where chamber musicians play short pieces in the ancient rooms of the Ducal Palace.

I was nervous suggesting Mantua to the extended family traveling with us, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought. The stop turned out to be a high point of the trip. We met Guido, Luisa and their father, Baldesar Castiglioni, whose family own the Palazzo Castiglioni where we stayed (a portrait of their ancestor by Raphael hangs in the Louvre right near the Mona Lisa). There are also impromptu pasta-making lessons in a tiny restaurant outside of town, the local Sbrisolona traditional tart, amazing frescoes in the Palazzo Te, the pleasure palace Federico II Gonzaga, a young duke, built for himself with the help of Raphael’s top pupil Giulio Romano, to get away from his mother — some things never change!

Most important, unlike other Italian cities packed with tourists and cruise passengers, the locals were genuinely glad to see us and show us their city. That’s why in 2015 I’m going to aim to get off the tourist track more — and I encourage all of you to do so as well. Of course, when you let the kids lead the way you always go in new and unexpected directions.

That doesn’t mean you’ll always find a hidden gem — like Mantua — but when you do, you remember why you’re traveling in the first place — to get out of your comfort zone and share something new with those you love most and, of course, eat great food!

Locanda Le Grazie Mntova

Locanda Le Grazie Mntova

“Come see our pasta maker,” said Daniela Bellintani, who with her husband, Fernando, owns the charming La Locanda delle Grazie in the village of Grazie just a few miles outside of Mantua. The pasta maker turned out to be Chef Fernando and three smiling young men who were happy to show us how they make the local specialties — the pumpkin ravioli, which we happily sample along with pasta with homemade duck ragout, an assortment of local salamis and ham and local Lambrusco wine.

“My father says if you don’t share your recipes, they just die with you,” says Anita Aldighieri, the couple’s daughter, explaining their plan to offer cooking classes, including those for families who will want to visit the Santa Maria del Grazie church. This is a church like none other you’ll visit — and one the kids will remember most. Even before the church was built in the 15th century, pilgrims came to pray for miracles. You’ll see the strangest statues of those whose prayers were heard — a man fished out of a well; another who couldn’t be hanged when a beam broke. Perhaps the strangest and what kids love most is the embalmed crocodile hanging from the ceiling that’s at least 500 years old.

 

Daniela Bellintani Le Grazie Restaurant

Daniela Bellintani Le Grazie Restaurant

 

Every August, thousands make a pilgrimage of a different sort here for a unique festival during which artists from around the world are chosen to create chalk paintings on 10-by-10-foot squares of pavement about something that relates to the miracle-making Madonna.

 

Mantova Palazzo Castiglioni in Piazza Sordello

Mantova Palazzo Castiglioni in Piazza Sordello

The Castiglioni family — Luisa owns a villa rental management company in Italy — has turned a few rooms of their palazzo into the most unique inn I’ve ever seen. (Think sleeping in a palace room — there is even one with an ancient fresco on the wall — but with all the modern conveniences and breakfast, starting at under $200 a night.) While they don’t want their city overrun with tourists, they certainly would like more people to discover its charms — like the Palazzo Te, which is considered one of the great Renaissance palaces.

Kids love the Hall of Horses with life-sized paintings of some of the young duke’s favorites from the 1520 and the astounding Chamber of the Giants with paintings that cover the walls and ceilings, telling the story of the fall of the giants who tried to climb Mount Olympus. When a big fire was going in this room, we’re told, with light playing on the walls, it was like a Renaissance 4-D experience.

It’s pretty great in the 21st century, too.

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver

 

Where :  Mantua / Mantova  Lombardy Italy – Milano  189km/117ml ; Venice 159 km/85km

Palazzo Castiglioni www.palazzocastiglionimantova.com

Palazzo Te  http://www.palazzote.it/ viale Te 13 Mantova  Italy
Palazzo Ducale piazza Sordello 40 Mantova

Locanda delle Grazie

Address: Via San Pio X, 2, Grazie MN
Phone: +39 0376 348038